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And They're Off!

And They’re Off! SCU Students and Their Solar House Heading to D.C. for Solar Decathlon

The long days, weeks, and months of heavy lifting, sawing, and hammering have paid off for Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts students who spent their spring quarter and summer vacation building an 800-square-foot house. The students said goodbye to their solar-powered home on Sept. 15, as they watched the trucks carrying it drive off campus and head to Washington, D.C.

The students will soon join the house on the National Mall to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2009 Solar Decathlon. For almost two years, they’ve been working on the project, raising money, researching and finding the materials, and even creating some of the technology for the house.

“So many people thought this competition was about just designing a house and making blueprints of it. They couldn’t believe that I was spending this entire summer with all my teammates actually building a house,” said Tori Watson, SCU ’12.

Immediately after they put the finishing touches in and around the home, they began working backwards by disassembling it and breaking it up into three pieces to truck it to the nation’s capital.

They watched with excitement and a bit of fear, as giant cranes rolled onto campus, lifted the house from its temporary foundation, and gently moved it piece by piece onto three flatbed trucks. After spending another 12-hour day packing their tools, supplies, and equipment, the students clapped and cheered as the trucks moved out.

“I’m very excited! I slept about an hour last night because of all the last-minute work I had to do, but I feel like I slept 10 hours, and I’m super pumped!” said Dan Ruffoni, SCU ’09.

“I can’t believe we actually got everything on the trucks in two days! It’s actually coming together, and we’re going to the East Coast!” said Allison Kopf, SCU ’11.

“We have a great team. We’re all very passionate about our house, and we’re ready to bring it to Washington, D.C.!” said Watson.

The students will now spend the next several days preparing for the international competition that takes place Oct. 8–16. They’ll need to map out their strategy in reassembling the home in the quickest and easiest fashion and also practice explaining their designs, the engineering, and the various materials they used on the house. Most importantly, students will have to perfect giving tours to the judges and to the public.

Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts are the only schools from California and the entire West Coast involved in the Solar Decathlon. The students will be competing against 19 other college/university teams from the U.S., Canada, Germany, Puerto Rico, and Spain.